We all know by this time that the COVID-19 crisis is unprecedented, at least in recent history. People are asking what it means in terms of the Biblical timeline. Are we in the tribulation? Many people are wondering this, so here is my take on things—
First, if we believe that God is in control of everything, then we must believe that He has allowed this pandemic. That implies that God has a purpose in this, and we need to continue to believe that ultimately His purpose is good. We will probably never understand this fully, but even with the incredible death toll, this pandemic represents God’s mercy, which I’ll explain, so keep reading.
Think of a summer day when the weather forecast is warning of a severe thunderstorm approaching. You prepare by putting stuff in the yard away, and you maybe even cover fragile plants to protect them from hail. Later in the day you hear distant rumblings of thunder. An hour or so later you hear a loud clap of thunder. At that point you make sure you and your household are inside, out of danger, because that loud clap signals that the storm is quite close.
Now let’s apply this illustration to what we’re experiencing. The spiritual weather forecast is Scripture, with its warnings of approaching judgment. The distant rumblings represent things like local earthquakes and tsunamis. The loud thunderclap in the illustration is not the storm itself, but a warning of its nearness. So the global pandemic we are in now is a loud thunderclap that is warning us of the nearness of God’s final judgment. It is not judgment, but a warning. In the illustration, the home you take shelter in represents Jesus.
So specifically, what does the pandemic imply that we should do?
In Luke 13:1-5, some of Jesus’ disciples told Him about a number of Galileans who had perished at the hand of Pilate. Jesus responded by asking them if they thought this was God’s judgment on sin, and also asked them, “What about the 18 who died when the tower of Siloam fell on them?” Then He gives the answer to the meaning of those events, and what the disciples should do—”You must repent.” Jesus was saying that these kinds of events are warnings, not judgment, and call for getting right with God, because you never know when your life might end unexpectedly, or when the final judgment will arrive. So first of all, this COVID-19 crisis is a global warning to all mankind everywhere that they should repent and get right with God before the real judgment arrives, or before they perish unexpectedly. It’s maybe hard to think of it this way, but this crisis is actually an expression of God’s mercy. It is merciful, because God is putting off the final judgment as long as possible, to give mankind the opportunity to repent. He is mercifully speaking through this crisis to all people everywhere that now is the time to turn to Him, before it’s too late. He is doing this by removing almost everything the world trusts in, and bringing people face to face with their mortality and the fragile nature of life. It is also merciful, because this pandemic is nothing compared to the coming storm of God’s final judgment.
For believers, all of this implies that the Lord is giving us a wide open door to show people what this crisis means. That may be somewhat difficult right now, while we’re isolated from others, but I expect that when the crisis has subsided to a certain degree, people will be asking the question, what did that mean? How could a merciful God allow that to happen? I spoke to one person about these things who said, “I think when this subsides, we’ll see churches filling up.”
However, I also see from Scripture that obviously not everyone will repent. In fact, I suspect that this crisis will move us toward the events of Revelation in the sense that instead of crying out to God in repentance, most of mankind will begin to call for global leadership in order to prevent this from happening again, which will set the stage for the emergence of the Antichrist.
Let’s continue to pray that the Lord will use us to lead others to an understanding of their need for Jesus.